Been There. Done That?

When I was younger and would use poor grammar, my father used to correct me with the exasperating phrase “Ouch- that hurt my ears!” As frustrating as it was to have to stop in mid-sentence, correct myself, and then continue, it was, in fact, effective.

As an adult, I have silently struggled with a similar “Ouch- that hurt my ears!” scenario that I hear people say all the time when talking about where they have traveled or where they want to go:

“Oh, I did France last summer.”

“I really want to do Nepal.”

“I’ve done South America.”

What does this mean, to “do” a country? How could you possibly have “done” an entire continent? Even if you have explored every 6.9 million square miles of South America – experiences are never static. You could visit 6.9 million times and have a completely different experience each trip. And learn something new each visit as well.

I know it seems fussy to zero-in on one word (of course I know what is meant by the phrase) – but in the same way that my father would have me stop, reflect on my word use, and correct myself- I think we can do the same for this ubiquitous word usage of “doing” a place. And the issue seems to be systemic.

The phrase to ‘do’ a place is more than just mere words. It is a symptom of a screwy approach to traveling. Traveling is not a checklist. It is not a competition of how many places you’ve been. ‘Doing’ a place sounds like you’ve conquered it. And, ouch. That hurts my ears.

Sure, I understand that if you visit Egypt, you will want to see the Great Pyramids. Just in the same way, a first time visitor to Paris would of course want to visit the Eiffel Tower. But if traveling is merely an agenda of places to see and do – you are in danger of missing out on what traveling is all about.

The people, the sounds, the experiences are infinite. See the World Wonder, but don’t forget to wander the alleyways. Stop-in for a rest in a local teahouse. Overcome language barriers during long conversation with a newfound friend.

Don’t resist revisiting the same place again and again (without fear of missing out on something else) if that’s what you desire.

Because even if you haven’t seen those 1000 Places to See Before You Die as many others before you have, every new travel experience is your own.

And that doesn’t hurt my ears at all.